MIG Welder Job Description
MIG welders, or metal inert gas welders, use specialized gas metal arc welding techniques and equipment to join pieces of metal together. MIG welders work in a variety of industries and settings, ranging from automotive and construction fields to fabrication of furniture and other consumer goods. MIG welders use an electric arc welder with the inert gas argon to securely and permanently join metal, preventing impurities from compromising the weld.
This position requires no formal training, although vocational and technical schools offer programs to prepare students for careers as MIG welders. Additionally, certification programs teach students to safely operate welding equipment that can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
MIG Welder Duties and Responsibilities
While MIG welders’ duties may vary slightly depending on their industry, most share several core responsibilities:
Join Metal Parts Together
The primary responsibility of a MIG welder is to join multiple pieces of metal together using an electric arc. The MIG welder uses feeder wire, electric current, and an inert gas (typically a combination of argon and carbon dioxide) to fuse two or more pieces of metal together and keep contaminants from entering the weld and weakening the bond. MIG welding is the most common type of gas metal arc welding, which uses direct current to melt and bond metals.
Measure and Cut Workpieces
MIG welders measure and cut a variety of workpieces using blueprints or schematics. This requires some familiarity with technical documents and specification sheets, along with some level of expertise with using metal-cutting tools, such as plasma torches, grinders, and filers. This also requires a high level of precision to make the correct cuts.
Select Proper Materials
Before they begin welding, MIG welders also make decisions regarding their materials. Specifically, MIG welders determine the initial ratio of carbon dioxide to argon in their shielding gas based on the workpieces and conditions in order to achieve a clean weld and reduce splatter. They may also select and change wire gauges based on materials and application.
Assess Weld Strength
After completing welds, MIG welders conduct physical inspections to assess the strength and stability of each join. This part of the job requires excellent attention to detail, as minor welding issues can cause catastrophic failure on large structures, such as ships, vehicles, aircraft, and buildings. In addition to conducting these physical inspections, MIG welders may also have to report and correct them.
Troubleshoot Welding Issues
Because MIG welding uses a variety of elements (feeder wire, gas, and current), MIG welders frequently have to troubleshoot issues that arise during the fabrication process. They may have to adjust gas ratios while working on overhead pieces, for example, to reduce splatter and worksite hazards, or identify and correct issues with gas flow or wire spool delivery rates that can slow down welding processes.
MIG Welder Skills and Qualifications
MIG welders join metals together using specialized equipment. Most workers in this role have at least a high school diploma and the following skills:
- Welding skills – the ability to safely and efficiently operate MIG welding equipment is the most important consideration for a MIG welder, since they have to ensure that they create reliable and strong bonds
- Observational skills – MIG welders frequently conduct inspections of welds and parts, making spot repairs to ensure stability
- Safety skills – because they work with hazardous equipment, MIG welders should understand and adhere to best practices to maintain safe worksites and pieces
- Attention to detail – since a MIG welder’s work can often be repetitive but all welded pieces need to be thoroughly and safely joined
- Physical stamina and dexterity – physical strength, stamina, and dexterity are necessary as MIG welders frequently work with large pieces and cumbersome equipment
MIG Welder Education and Training
MIG welders typically have at least a high school diploma, along with some technical or vocational training to learn how to safely operate welding equipment. Many MIG welders begin learning skills and techniques in high school through vocational-technical schools, and some continue at technical or community colleges. There are significant opportunities for on-the-job-training as MIG welders learn effective techniques and best practices.
MIG Welder Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers (the category that includes MIG welders) earned a median annual salary of $40,240 in May 2017. The lowest-paid 10 percent of workers in this position earned less than $27,460 per year, while the highest-paid 10 percent earned over $63,170 per year.
The BLS expects employment in this role to grow at a rate of 6 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is about as fast as average.
If you’d like to learn more about working as a MID welder, we found a number of resources on the web for further reading and information:
American Welding Society (AWS) – AWS is a professional and advocacy organization for welders, providing helpful resources, career development opportunities, and events to help welders connect with other professionals.
Learn to Weld: Beginning MIG Welding and Metal Fabrication Basics – This book by Stephen Christena provides step-by-step instructions to help new welders safely and effectively operate MIG welding equipment.
“7 Tips for Improving MIG Welding” – Read this blog post to learn how to improve your MIG welding skills, with a particular focus on safety, efficiency, and accuracy.
Welding Complete, 2nd Edition: Techniques, Project Plans & Instructions – Enhance your welding skills through hands-on projects and in-depth instructions to master safe and effective welding.
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